Carl Rogers was born on January 8 1902 in Illinois, America where he was brought up in a Christian home. Initially he had an academic interest in agriculture, followed by history and then religion. He commenced studies at the very liberal Union Theological Seminary in New York but a disenchanted Rogers soon left here to study at the nearby Teachers College at Columbia University where he was introduced to psychology and humanism. 1
Rogers went on to totally forsake his parents' teachings and became an out and out secular humanist. His interests soon became entirely absorbed in the philosophy of education and psychology. He was greatly influenced by the humanistic teachings of Abraham Maslow, Freud and others. “Such was his commitment to the cause of secular humanism that in 1964 he was elected Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Society.” 2
Rogers is most famous for his development of the very popular non-directive, person-centered psychological counselling method. In order to be effective in their helping role, he saw the need for any therapist or practitioner to evidence the following attributes within their practice:
- Genuineness and congruence [ie worker is required to be open, honest and practice self-disclosure].
- Empathy with their clients views of the world [ie clients need to be listened to intently and understood].
- Unconditional Positive Regard [ie clients need to be given approval and acceptance]. 3
On the face of it these attributes would seem desirable for anyone working with people but when their humanistic origin is identified, their real meaning is uncovered. For example Roger’s meaning of Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR) is that the worker must accept and respect a client regardless of what they have said or done because every client is innately good; any indication of disapproval from the worker could adversely affect the clients ‘self esteem’ and this in turn could hinder their ability to achieve ‘self-actualisation’. Of course God does command Believers to “Love your enemies, bless them and that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matt 5:44).
However given that Christians are not permitted to approve sin (Ephesians 5:11), this could potentially pose a problem for a Believer working with clients in health and social care settings. How could a Christian practitioner ever provide care for people who are grossly sinful or have committed heinous crimes? The editors have had personal experience of being required to provide health and social care services to clients who have been very immoral and sinful. This they did successfully without compromising their obedience to God’s Word by providing approval or assisting clients to forward their sinful lifestyles. This was only made possible by the Grace of God, which enabled them to take a compassionate and humble approach, which brought them to recognise that apart from the intervening Grace of God in their lives, they could have committed the same and perhaps even worse sins.
The editors were further enabled to deal with very difficult situations within their professional roles, by not focussing on their client’s ‘deeds’ but by fulfilling their professional employment contract to identify and attempt to meet their client’s ‘needs’.
Of late it has become increasingly difficult for the Christian worker to practice within the confines of a conscience guided and controlled by scriptural principles; unscriptural humanistic laws are being passed and amended to promote immorality and perversion; loopholes in legislation have been closed, whereby in the past service providers could refuse to provide a service when to do so was in conflict with their beliefs and conscience. Within the United Kingdom over recent years, many people have suffered considerable losses as a consequence of refusing to offer services, professional or otherwise, which would have compelled them to act contrary to God’s Word and their consciences. Many of these cases have been given high profile coverage on news of the UK’s television channels.
When faced with the dilemma on whether to obey man or God, Peter was very clear in his response: “We ought always to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). This and other such commands within God’s Word are just as binding upon Believers in the 21 Century although it remains to be seen how many Christians, in the face of changing societal opinions and legislation, will be willing to give up their professions, reputations, salaries and perhaps even their lives for the defense of the Gospel and obedience to the Word of God.
UPR was initially developed by Rogers for psychological counselling and educational purposes but its sphere of influence has greatly increased to the extent that it has deeply permeated nurse and social work training. Along with other humanistic theories, UPR is often presented as integrating Biblical values. When undergoing the Northern Ireland social work training programme, one the editor’s was frequently informed of the Christian value base of social work. She did not question this teaching until after a considerable amount of time it came to her attention that this so called ‘Christian’ value base was attributed to Biestek, a Jesuit priest who had what he termed ‘Christian’ humanistic beliefs. Biestek went on to be a very influential Professor of Social Work at Loyola University of Chicago.
Whilst there may appear to be similarities between humanistic theories and Scriptural teachings, as with most man originated philosophies, beneath the surface of humanist teachings there lurks a dangerous perversion and denial of God’s Truth. Believers, especially those involved in professional practice and academic study should closely examine everything they are being taught in the light of God’s Word.
This is especially important now that we are quite evidently living in the last days, when there is an ever increasing departure from the Faith. Serious and prayerful study of God’s Word combined with the Wisdom that descendeth from above is an absolute necessity to provide the Believer with the ability to discern between the precious and the vile.
“But strong meat belongeth to them that are that are full of age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Hebrews 5:14).
2. Dr ES. Williams, The Dark Side of Christian Counselling, The Wakeman Trust, London. 2009, p66
3. Malcolm Payne, Modern Social Work Theory, 2 Edition, Macmillan Press Ltd, 1997, p178